The Joyous Life of Fr. Clark McAulay Celebrated (1924-2016)

posted on 06/12/16 04:39 pm by Kathy McMerty  

By MC Havey, Archivist (all photos courtesy of the Archives)

The joy, which Fr. Clark McAulay spread throughout his life, was captured at the Mass of Resurrection in St. Patrick’s church, Toronto, on November 24.

Masterfully intermingling humourous anecdotes in his homily, Fr. William Fitzgerald recounted the Redemptorist life of Fr. McAulay, who died on November 20 at Providence Healthcare, Toronto. Fr. Fitzgerald capsulized Fr. McAulay’s priestly life into the three ministries of friendship, preaching God’s good news and music and song.

Within the Redemptorist community, Fr. McAulay brought pleasantness, graciousness, an absence of complaints, numerous anecdotes, often self-depreciating and a civility with cheery greetings during the day, Fr. Fitzgerald added. A total of 10 confreres concelebrated the Mass with Vicar Provincial Fr. Santo Arrigo as the main celebrant.

At the funeral reception, parishioners and close friends from three parishes, where he served – St. Patrick’s, Quebec City (pastor 1966-1981 and 1988-1999); St. Teresa’s, St. John’s (1981-1984) and Holy Redeemer, Sudbury, ON (pastor 1984-1988) – paid similar tributes, recalling his pastoral presence during his appointments and afterwards in happy and sad times.

Perhaps Fr. McAulay’s roots in Prince Edward Island accounted for his sunny personality. Born on August 10, 1924 in Charlottetown, Fr. McAulay, one of 10 children, grew up in St. Dunstan’s Basilica parish, where he received the first sacraments, sang in the boys’ choir, served at the altar and celebrated his First Solemn Mass.  His body returned to St. Dunstan’s on November 28 for the Mass of Christian Burial, celebrated by Fr. Charles Chevrier, a long time friend, and with Brother Frank Dunphy wearing his Redemptorist habit as the First Reader. Celtic music, a lone fiddler and the Basilica choir filled the 109-year-old church with music loved by Fr. McAulay.  Burial followed at the Redemptorist plot in the city’s Catholic cemetery.   

Educated at Queen’s Square primary school, he attended St. Dunstan’s High School and St. Dunstan’s University, graduating in 1947 with a bachelor of arts. While considering a vocation during university, he began attending Mother of Perpetual Help devotions at the Redemptorist parish of Holy Redeemer. Upon deciding to study for the Redemptorist priesthood, he attended St. Mary’s College, the Redemptorist juvenate in Brockville, ON (1947-1948) and entered the Redemptorist novitiate (1948-1949) at St. Alphonsus seminary in Woodstock, ON, where he professed first vows on August 2, 1949 and was ordained on June 29, 1952.

During studies in Rome (1953-1956), he dined with Cardinal Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, in Venice and earned a J.C.L. (doctorate) in canon law at Lateran University. Back in Canada as professor of canon law at the Woodstock seminary (1956-1957) and Holy Redeemer College, Windsor, ON (1957-1966), Fr. McAulay was well-prepared, punctual but strict, noted Fr. Fitzgerald, one of his students.

When the seminary closed, Fr. McAulay began four decades of parish appointments. “In each parish, he lived among the people as a missionary disciple,” Fr. Fitzgerald observed, “He loved each one.” Known for preaching, McAulay delivered short, clear homilies. Marieileen McCabe of Toronto appreciated “his simple but powerful three-sentence homilies that we could never forget.  I tried to persuade him to write them down and I would type them up for publication, but he always felt he was not worthy.” Fr. Fitzgerald recalled another parishioner’s description of Fr. McAulay ending the homily poignantly and dramatically with the closing of the book and a slow walk back to his chair on the sanctuary.

At St. Patrick’s, Québec City in 1999, he was immortalized with a bronze bust (pictured at left), sculpted by his friend Anglican Archdeacon Peter Joyce and sits at the back of the church. Upon seeing the sketches of the bust, Fr. McAulay asked if more hair could be placed on the bald head.

Moving to St. Peter’s parish, Saint John (1999-2006), he provided pastoral care at St. Bridget’s church, the parish’s cherished church in Chapel Grove. During this time, his ministry of music and song blossomed. A gifted tenor, he joined the music scene, singing solo and in choirs at city concerts, often in sold-out performances. To raise funds for a church building and renovation project at Chapel Grove, the 80-year-old Fr. McAulay recorded Irish, Scottish and English folk songs on a CD, entitled Songs of My Spirit.

After the Redemptorists’ departure from the Saint John parish, Fr. McAulay lived at St. Patrick’s, Toronto (2006-2015). In declining health, he moved to Providence Healthcare, Toronto in May 2015 and received a summer visit from Superior General Michael Brehl, a confrere from a joint appointment to St. John’s in the early 1980s.

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